Vixen

Dark Protectors/Rebels
August 11, 2020
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Tabi Rusko has a simple to-do list: Rob a bank, steal a recording, set up a lucrative factory, and survive the assassins on her tail. Sure, she’s a demoness with the cunning and instincts that come with her species, but she’s always spent more time exploring than training, and her fighting skills are okay at best. One sexy man, a human cop no less, is responsible for her being stuck in a small hick town and forced into a human anger-management group that’s crazier than her. To make matters worse, his dangerous blue eyes and hard body leave her breathless and ready to rumble, and his overbearing attitude is a challenge a demoness can’t refuse.

Evan O’Connell just wants to enjoy his time out of the military by policing a small town and hopefully pulling cats from trees and helping old ladies cross the street before he succumbs to the disease plaguing him. The last thing he needs is a stunning, too sexy, pain in the butt blonde casing his bank and causing a ruckus everywhere she goes. There’s something different about her that he can’t figure out, and when she offers him immortality in exchange for her freedom, he discovers that isn’t enough. One touch of her, a whirlwind beyond his imagination, and he wants the Vixen to be his forever, as soon as he takes care of the centuries old killers on her tail.

**Every 1001 Dark Nights novella is a standalone story. For new readers, it’s an introduction to an author’s world. And for fans, it’s a bonus book in the author’s series. We hope you’ll enjoy each one as much as we do.**

Other Books in the Dark Protectors/Rebels Series

Robbing a bank shouldn’t take this much work.

Especially since said bank was in the middle of a podunk town in the middle of freaking nowhere. Tabitha Rusko stepped out of her souped-up BMW and into the darkness of night, having waited too many days for a cloudy evening. The moon over this part of the world was often over-bright, and it had taken forever for stormy weather to finally arrive.

As a demonness, she should be able to control the weather, darn it. Thunder growled across the sky as if in perfect agreement.

She tugged a black rope from the back seat and shut her door, winding the heavy nylon around her shoulder. Then she fetched the grappling hook from the trunk along with the compact drill.

This was ridiculous.

She took a deep breath and ran across the quiet street toward the silent building.

“Going somewhere?” a deep voice asked.

She jumped and bit back a yelp, swinging around to make out a figure leaning against a maple tree by the front door of the bank. Oh, crap. “Detective O’Connell,” she breathed, her heartbeat ramming into a cadence that might kill her. “What are you doing here?” There was no way he’d followed her, because she’d driven all over the town to make sure she was clear. This was a bank robbery, for Pete’s sake.

He pushed off from the tree, striding in the casual lope that screamed bad boy sexy—even for a human. “I had the oddest feeling you were up to something after seeing you drive by this bank so many times the last week, and considering you desperately want the recording I have secured inside, I went with my instincts.” He reached her, and his unique scent of smoked honey wafted her way.

That smell had chased her through dreams until she could finally identify it. Why it was so blatantly masculine, she’d never understand. “You’ve been watching me? Stalking me?” When all else fails, attack.

“No. My office is just down the street,” he said, his tone dry. He wore a dark T-shirt and faded jeans with a gun strapped to his thigh and a badge at his belt. He was about six-two with thick brown hair, matching beard, and blue eyes that seemed to see through her without much effort.

If she didn’t know better, she’d think he was something beyond human. But he wasn’t. Even now, she could sense the illness in him. One he thought he could hide. Yet another thing that had kept her up at night. “I’m not doing anything wrong.”

He looked down at her rope, drill, and grappling hook. “Attempted robbery of a bank is a felony.”

“I haven’t attempted anything.” She kept her feet on the sidewalk. “I’m not even on the bank’s property.” Yet. Of course, the cop knew that fact. Why had he stopped her before she’d at least trespassed? He seemed to rescue everyone, or rather, every woman around who needed help. “Do you keep a bunch of dogs and cats, too?” she blurted before she could help herself.

He cocked his head to the side. “Two dogs and no cats. Okay, one cat, but he just stops by when the weather is bad or he’s really hungry.” Evan stuck his hand in his jeans pocket. “Maybe two cats.”

The guy was a natural rescuer. Also a pain in the butt. “If you’re such a great guy, why won’t you give me that recording you have of me?” She fluttered her eyelashes in an age-old move.

He sighed and took her arm, his grip firm. “I promise you’ll get the video the second you graduate from anger management. You have to understand that you could’ve killed those guys, and while they probably deserved it for harassing you, I can’t just let you off the hook. You do seem to have anger issues.”

Oh, he had no idea. She’d been innocently minding her own business and the punks had accosted her, so she’d kicked their butts. It was too bad the whole situation had been caught on camera, and since one of the kids was the sheriff’s son, she had been charged. Evan had helped her, though. She dug in her heels and stopped them both.

He stiffened and turned to face her. “How are you so strong?” Releasing her, he rubbed the back of his neck. “Or maybe I’ve just lost my strength.” He sighed, his broad chest moving with the effort. “What was your plan tonight?” He sounded merely curious.

She couldn’t tell him, and she really had to get a move on. “I’m really sorry about this,” she whispered, setting her stance and turning more fully to face him.

He shook his head. “That isn’t an answer.”

“No, but this is.” She lowered her chin and attacked his mind, sending enough power to knock him out and scramble his brain enough that he wouldn’t remember the evening.

He cocked his head to the side. “What is?”

Her mouth dropped open. She’d sent enough pain his way that he should’ve dropped to the pavement instantly. Was there something wrong with her? All demons could attack minds—it was one of their strongest skills. While she was only twenty-five years old, she’d learned how in her early teens. She should be able to kill the guy with the right force.

Yet there he stood.

She tried again, this time holding nothing back.

His chin lowered. “What the hell are you doing?”

“Did you feel that?” she whispered. Tingles exploded throughout her abdomen.

He stepped closer. “Feel what?”

Oh, crap. Her powers were gone. How the heck had that happened? “This town is bad luck,” she yelled, throwing her hands up and knocking him beneath the chin with the drill.

He snatched it from her hand. “Ouch.”

That hurt you?” she yelled, fury ripping through her with the force of a real demon mind attack. One that actually worked. “You should be slobbering all over the pavement right now.”

The clouds parted, and the moon beamed down, highlighting the angles of his rugged face. His beyond blue eyes laser focused on her. “Are you all right? Maybe we should get you to a professional or something.”

Yeah, she probably did sound like a lunatic.

Evan stiffened and then partially turned toward the street.

The air grew heavy, and Tabi sighed, her stomach dropping as a demon strolled their way from the shadows. “This day just couldn’t get any worse,” she muttered. “Evan? You might want to run now.”

 

* * * *

 

Evan shifted his weight to put the blonde pain-in-the-ass behind him while he faced the threat. There was no doubt the man heading toward them, body relaxed, eyes intense…was a threat. He would’ve known that even if Tabitha hadn’t just told him to run. “What kind of trouble are you in, darlin’?” he asked, resting his hand on the butt of his gun.

Her sigh stirred the air around them. “The kind you wouldn’t understand. Please leave, and I’ll handle this.”

He almost grinned. The woman was frighteningly petite with long blonde hair and the deepest black eyes he’d ever seen. While she looked fragile, she moved with a power and confidence that had intrigued him from the first time he’d arrested her. Yet there was no way she could fight the guy headed their way. Although Evan wasn’t at his best right now, either. If this current weakness in his limbs continued, he’d have to give notice at the department. But not tonight or until he solved the murder of the dirtbag Monte Loften. Tonight, he was helping Tabi.

The guy finally arrived and stopped walking a couple of feet away. “Hello, Tabitha.”

So they did know each other. Evan cocked his head. “Care to introduce us?” His adrenaline flowed through his veins, and he sank into the sensation for the briefest of seconds. He missed feeling strong and healthy.

Tabi stepped to his side. “Detective O’Connell, this is Richard Goncharov. He is now leaving.”

Had her voice trembled? Evan studied the newcomer as he was studied right back. Tall and broad, Evan wasn’t accustomed to looking up at anybody. This guy was about six-foot-seven with dark eyes and thick blonde hair almost as light as Tabi’s. Were they related? “Your brother?” Evan asked.

Richard smiled, revealing strong white teeth. “Her betrothed.”

Betrothed? Oh, hell no. Evan snorted. “What century are you from?”

The smile widened. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

What was going on with these people? “Tabi?” Evan asked.

“It’s a long story.” She elbowed him in the ribs and settled her feet next to him. “But we haven’t done anything wrong, so please let us be, Detective.”

No way was Evan leaving her with this guy. While he might not understand what was going on, his instincts had never failed him. “Actually, you’re both skulking near the bank, and I can take you in briefly for questioning.” Which might be a good idea.

Richard stared down at Tabi. “Is this guy for real?”

She exhaled. “Yes.”

Richard lifted his nose, sniffing the air. He paused and studied Evan with even more intensity. “You’re dying.”

Evan jolted and then regained control. How the hell did he know that? “Excuse me?”

“Leave him alone.” Tabi pushed forward with the nylon rope still around her shoulder and a grappling hook in her left hand. “Let’s go, Richard. We can fight about our future and leave the detective be. I won’t allow him to be hurt.”

“The mere fact that you don’t want him harmed makes me want to harm him,” Richard said slowly.

What the fuck? Evan shoved Tabi behind him again and tossed the drill to the ground. “That was a threat against a law enforcement officer.” Well, kind of. Either way, he could get this guy away from Tabi and run a background check on him for crimes. “You’re coming with me.”

“I’m bored.” Richard lowered his chin in the same way Tabi had earlier. “Say goodbye to your brain.” He focused hard on Evan’s face.

“That’s it.” Evan reached for the cuffs in his back pocket.

Richard stepped back. “What the hell?”

Tabi hopped back to Evan’s side. “Oh, thank goodness. I thought it was me. I’m fine. You couldn’t attack his mind, either?”

Okay. They were both nuts. “I think we should get you two some help.” Evan set the cuffs back in place and reached for his phone. “We have a nice and secured area at the hospital where we can figure out what’s going on.” Was Tabi involved in some type of weird cult with this moron? It figured that a crazy blonde would make him wish he could live longer. The fact that she was nuts should diminish his desire for her. Nope. Maybe the shrink from anger management could help her.

“You really should leave,” Tabi said, her gaze remaining on Richard. “I mean it, Richard. Don’t hurt him.”

Enough. Evan reached for his gun, stopping when Tabi cried out. Tears leaked from her eyes and her body shook. “Tabi?”

Her chin firmed and she snapped her head up. Her legs visibly trembled, and the air thickened around her. She coughed and then sucked in a breath. “You attacked me?” she all but growled at Richard.

He smiled. “Just wanted to make sure I still had it.” Then he lowered his chin again, and his eyes gleamed in the darkness.

Fury lit her face. “Don’t you ever—” She cried out again and dropped the grappling hook. It bounced near the discarded drill.

Evan instinctively reached for her arm. “Tabi?”

She jerked and then settled, taking a deep breath. Slowly, she turned her head to face him. “How did you do that?”

“Do what?” Evan didn’t like how pale she’d become, so he gentled his grip on her. What the hell was going on here?

“You, um, stopped the mind attack,” she breathed, her eyes wide.

Heat flowed through him. “Honey? I think you need help.” How had the jackass in front of him convinced the woman that her mind could be attacked? “Let’s get you to the hospital, and I’ll take a complete report from you about whatever you’re involved in. I am going to help you.” While he’d sensed she was in some sort of trouble, he hadn’t figured on anything this crazy. It’d be nice to take down a cult before he died, if that’s what was going on.

His own headache was about to drop him to the ground, but he was used to that. In fact, if his head stopped hurting, he’d know he was close to death. Not that it wasn’t coming for him, anyway.

Tabi slipped her hand in his. “Let’s get out of here.”

The sweetness of her gesture dug into his chest and took hold. “How about we all go to the station?”

Richard’s lips thinned, and he stared at their joined hands. “I guess I can wait for your disease to kill you, human.” His eyes sparked again. “Your deadline is Thursday, Tabitha. Take me, or take death. Your choice.” He turned and strode away.

Evan stiffened and reached for his gun.

“No,” Tabi said softly. “Let him go. You know he didn’t break any laws.”

True. Evan wouldn’t be able to hold him for long. “What’s going on?” he asked quietly.

She shook her head. “I don’t really know, to be honest.” Then she looked up at him, her gaze earnest. “I have to go home now. We can talk after the anger management class tomorrow. I’m sure you’ll be there to make sure I go.”

“Let me help you.” He could just take her in, but at the moment, he didn’t have enough to really hold her on. Part of that was his fault in that he’d stopped her before she could use the rope and hook. His time was limited, and saving her had become his focus two weeks ago.

He hadn’t figured out why.

Yet.

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Fast paced and full of remarkable characters, this book has a healthy dose of humour that I thoroughly enjoyed! – 5 Stars, Goodreads

The action packed premise is fast paced and entertaining; the characters are energetic and powerful; the romance is limited to a night –there is definitely a case of insta lust to love. – The Reading Cafe

Fun and romantic with fantastic characters and great action, Rebecca Zanetti continues to expand and enhance her paranormal world, and I cannot get enough! – AJ, The Escapist Book Blog